How Can I Tell if My Child is Using Drugs?

While it is difficult to distinguish typical adolescent behavior from drug-induced behavior, parents should consider possible drug use if they notice several of these changes in their child:

Changes in Physical Appearance

  • Lack of personal cleanliness, messy appearance
  • Red eyes and frequent use of eye drops
  • Runny nose, congestion, coughing
  • Wearing dark glasses when not necessary
  • Pale face, circles under eyes

Changes in Eating and Sleeping Habits

  • Difficulty falling asleep, insomnia
  • Inappropriate napping
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Poor appetite
  • Sudden appetite (especially for sweets)
  • Spends night in unsupervised homes

Physical Evidence of Drug Use

  • Liquor missing or watered down
  • Fake ID
  • Mouthwash, breath sprays
  • Visine or other eye drops
  • Roach clips, rolling papers
  • Bongs, pipes, and small screens
  • Baggies containing dried leaves, seeds
  • “Stash” cans, often disguised as cola or beer cans
  • Burning incense, room deodorizers
  • Prescription medicine disappearing

Any drugs or drug paraphernalia you find on your child or in your home are indications of drug use, even if she/he insists they “belong to a friend.”

Changes in Behavior and Personality

  • Abrupt changes in mood
  • Hostility, defiance of rules
  • Depression , “I don’t care attitude”
  • Lack of responsibility; not doing chores or homework; forgetting family occasions
  • Blaming, lying, making excuses
  • Loss of memory, shortened attention span, disordered thought patterns
  • Withdrawal from family, isolation, secretiveness

Changes in Friends and Interests

  • New or different friends, especially those who use drugs
  • Friends rarely introduced and seldom come to the house
  • More time spent in room or away from home
  • Secrecy about actions and possessions
  • Hobbies, sports or extracurricular activities are given up; everything is “boring”
  • Stays out past curfew or sneaks out at night

Changes in School or Job Performance

  • Failing grades, neglected homework
  • Frequent tardiness and absenteeism
  • Falling asleep in class
  • Discipline problems
  • Quitting or getting fired from job

Positive Attitudes Towards Drugs & Alcohol

  • Pro-drug messages on posters or clothing
  • Strong defense of the occasional use of drugs by peers; thinks adults “hassle” kids
  • Easily angered when confronted about chemical use
  • Others are concerned over her/his use of alcohol or other drugs

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